We have all heard the word ‘concussion’, and it is usually something we associate with football and other sports when people receive a blow to their head. But we do not have to be an athlete to experience the damage and symptoms associated with a sports concussion, we can have a similar experience from simply falling and sometimes from auto-accidents even if we do not experience a direct blow to the head.
The symptoms of concussion can occur from any quick acceleration or deceleration of our head, because our brain is a bit like a big block of cheese floating in water inside a jar! If you hit the jar, shake it or make it move suddenly and stop suddenly the cheese will collide with the side of the jar just as our brain collides a little with the inside of our skull. That collision may be hard or it may be subtle and concussion symptoms may feel very bad or be mild.
Concussion symptoms can vary from headache, nausea, blurry vision, trouble with balance or just a sense of being shook up and feeling light headed.
What is important to understand is that a concussion is one injury where we are dealing with our one and only irreplaceable brain. Everything and anything that we can do to make it better, to minimize the effects and get better quicker is a wise idea. You can even eat foods and take supplements that help the brain by giving it nutrients that it needs to repair as well as to stay healthy. Avoiding alcohol after a possible concussion is extremely important since alcohol hurts normal brain function.
So have you been diagnosed in the past with a traumatic brain injury or concussion? Do you recall a time in the past when you may have felt like ‘your cheese was smacked against the inside of the jar’ and you felt some of those symptoms? Are you wondering if you are suffering a late consequence of a similar injury? Here are some answers and things you can do to help yourself:
Concussions not only have short term symptoms but the more severe a concussion is, it may also have long term consequences. Even milder concussions if repeated can cause long-term disabilities leading to problems with thinking, emotions and memory. If you know someone who tends to make bad decisions, gets angry, forgets a lot and played a lot of football, hockey or soccer they may be suffering the long term effects of concussion.
The simplest current treatment for concussion consists of:
- reduction of noise
- Reduction of visual stimulation (no TV or computers and rest in a darkened room)
- treating symptoms as needed
- Also avoidance of school work, or work
- Avoiding any processing of new information
Most mild concussions heal within 2 to 7 days. But, up to 15% can progress on to post-concussion syndrome. A diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome is made when the person suffers at least 3 of the following symptoms for a minimum of 4 weeks after a head injury:
- Sleep problems
- Psychological disturbances (anger, depression, emotional control)
- Cognitive disturbances (troubles with perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning)
What happens to your brain during a concussion?
All sorts of chemical changes happen in the brain that cause:
- brain neurons to become over excited (fire too much)
- brain inflammation
- over-active immune cell reaction causing damaging release of chemicals into the brain tissue
These changes are also seen in people who have Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and dementia.
After a concussion, it is extremely important to prevent a second injury before the brain is completely healed. A second injury can cause dangerous brain swelling that if not recognized and treated promptly, can be fatal.
What can be done to help a concussion?
There are nutritional supplements that can:
- reduce the brain inflammation
- calm over excited neurons
- stimulate brain healing.
These supplements include:
- Omega 3 fatty acid fish oil (EPA and DHA)
- Green tea
- Vitamin D
What the supplements do and how much to take
Taking the EPA-DHA fish oil for 30 days following a traumatic brain injury decreases the number of swollen, disconnected and injured nerve cells and lessens neuron injury and death.
The therapeutic dose of EPA-DHA for a brain injury is 1.5 to 5 grams per day.
Vitamin D reduces the brain inflammation and swelling.
Curcumin also reduces the brain inflammation and swelling.
Resveratrol not only reduces the brain inflammation and swelling but also slows the development of neuron degeneration. The typical supplementation range for resveratrol is between 50 to 500 mg per day.
Magnesium calms the over excited neurons. The recommended dosage is 80 to 420 mg per day.
Green tea is a powerful anti-oxidant besides being anti-inflammatory. The typical recommendation is 3 to 4 cups of green tea a day or 1 serving of extract containing 300 to 400 mg.
(Information taken from the study: Post-concussion Syndrome: A Review of Pathophysiology and Potential Nonpharmacological Approaches to Treatment. The Physican and Sports Medicine, November 2012, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 73-87. )